In May 2020 my role was made redundant due to the pandemic. It came as a shock and it was difficult to say goodbye to a job I thoroughly enjoyed. After the initial surprise, I saw it as an opportunity to pivot in my career and pursue a life long passion to serve.
Following months of personal reflection (and lots of hill walking), I’ve decided to go into the brave new world of self-employment and set up TOJU Ltd. I chose the name TOJU because it’s my first name. It’s an Itsekiri name (from Nigeria) that means “God’s timing is the best”. If you’ve read an earlier post I wrote titled “Say my name”, you’ll understand why I’ve decided to reclaim this name.
I’ve set up TOJU in response to a growing need to address ethnic diversity disparity in leading industries in the UK. At entry level, recruitment of ethnically diverse talent is still an area that requires focus, but the more important issue is, the higher you rise, the less ethnically diverse the board room looks. There is also issue of intersectionality of race and gender that research shows creates a barrier to equality.
If there is one positive thing about the murder of George Floyd on the 25th of May this year, it’s that, we are for the first time, taking a serious look at race and how lived experiences differ in our modern day society. Despite all the pledges made by CEO’s in the months following the BLM protest, ethnic diversity still remains an uncomfortable topic.
It’s uncomfortable to hear that:
- Only 3.3% of chairs, CEOs and CFOs of FTSE 100 companies are ethnic minorities (Green Park report).
- There are just four black CEOs in the Fortune 500.
- In 2020, a black barrister can be mistaken for a defendant three times in one day.
- When you look around the table where decisions are being made at corporate levels you see the opposite of ethnic diversity.
Just how important is ethnic diversity?
In 2015 McKinsey published a report titled “Why Diversity Matters”. This report articulated quite clearly the business case for diversity & inclusion. This year, they revisited the relationship between diversity and financial performance. Using their largest data set to date, they analysed data from over 1,000 large companies across 15 countries. Two things stood out for me in the “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” report:
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity, were 36 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
The research shows quite clearly that as found in earlier studies, the likelihood of financial outperformance continues to be higher for diversity in ethnicity than for gender.
Given the strong commercial argument in favour of ethnic diversity, it is surprising that corporations are not doing more to address this imbalance that not only makes financial sense, but is the right thing to do.
TOJU Ltd will be focused on two core objectives:
- Providing executive coaching to aspiring or existing business leaders with a focus on ethnic minority groups and women.
- Working with businesses to develop effective diversity & inclusion strategies.
I have twenty years of corporate experience, working across the public and private sectors in the UK. In the last two decades, I have experienced first hand the benefits of having your voice heard and also seen the converse side of working twice as hard to be heard. With my lived experiences, I approach this from a place of deep understanding of ethnic diversity issues and not a superficial “textbook understanding”.
Coaching for me is not just a job. It’s working with people to achieve transformational change in their lives and it starts with a simple belief that we all matter. I believe that when equipped with the right tools, people can achieve so much more, especially if they have someone that believes in their potential.
On the corporate side, I’ve stepped into this field as a lot of companies do not seem to have a good grasp of what ethnic diversity means and how the modern workplace has some deep rooted challenges around racial diversity. When I look around some companies that boast of doing “their bit” to improve ethnic diversity, examples of progress I see include:
- Unconscious bias training
- Setting up diversity groups
- Having a leadership shadowing programme for minority groups
- Highlighting/celebrating black history month
While the above are a good vehicle to start conversations around ethnic diversity, they are unfortunately not enough to generate the sort of change that translates into more diversity at leadership levels.
We need to start from the top and address the lack of diversity as seriously as we will address an IT infrastructure failure. It is not enough to say we are taking things seriously and do not tolerate bias. We need to approach the topic of ethnic diversity with the right level of strategic focus that this deserves given the expected financial returns.
If you would like to have a non-obligatory confidential chat with me, please use the following link to book an appointment or call me on Tel: +44 7485 592 991.